Choosing between a band and a deejay for the big day

  • 3 min to read

Couples must decide which choice — canned or live music — is the best fit for their event.

Irene wanted more out of her wedding day music than what she felt a band could provide — from Abba to ZZ Top, with dulcet sprinklings of The Beatles, first-pumping Guns N’ Roses, and classic call-and-responses like “Sweet Caroline” and “Shout.” Along with offering this musical diversity, she felt a deejay was more likely to play the hits that everyone knew and not upstage the couple and their guests.

Like all couples facing this wedding dilemma, Irene and her fiancé had to decide which choice — canned or live music — was the best fit for their event.

“We thought having a band would have just meant less music,” Irene said. “Our deejay was even able to bring in some Egyptian music for my family.”

With a substantial part of the wedding crowd hailing from Egypt, the couple felt it would be difficult to find a band that could whip out a Zaffa at a moment’s notice. But a deejay could. In this case, the music-meister DJ Rome went to the same school, St. Michael’s College, as the couple.

Wedding deejays usually do more than just work through a playlist and take requests, and they tend to be flexible, working with what the bride and groom want for their big day. Most also will announce the wedding party, the couple’s parents, and emcee fun traditions like the bouquet toss or the dollar dance. Some will offer rollicking games to get everyone laughing, sweating, or blushing, like Limbo, Musical Chairs, and Pass the Orange.

Above all, a good deejay needs to keep in good communication with the bride and groom to make sure they’re (cue Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes) having “the time of their lives.” And sometimes, it’s the little things that count the most, like when DJ Rome saved two slices of wedding cake so the bride and groom could eat it after the festivities. A good deejay stays focused on the real stars of the event.

“We didn’t want to hire anyone who would become the life of the party,” Irene said.

Although they went the deejay route for the wedding reception, Irene and Matthew hired a violinist for their ceremony, which took place at the top of Gadd Peak at Sugarbush Resort. The musician, Professor Fairbanks, was dressed in Renaissance-era bard garb and serenaded the guests as they rode the chairlift to the ceremony. The music was understated and classical, and the violin’s notes fit in perfectly in the fresh mountain air — a musical counterpoint to the party that followed at the base of the mountain.

“We got a bit of the best of both worlds,” Irene said.

On the flipside

Conversely, Zac and Vanessa, a couple of music fans who catch tons of shows at local clubs like the Rusty Nail and hit up the Phish tour every summer, are looking to capture the energy of a live show when they tie the knot this summer.

Zac said he’s been combing websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire, and other local online resources, looking for bands. He was pleased to see that a band doesn’t fetch much more than a good deejay, so the music budget didn’t back them into a corner. Bands will sometimes list the songs they know on their websites, and they run the gamut from classic rock to the music that’ll get grandma and grandpa up and showing the kids how to cut a rug.

“If we wanted everything from hip hop to jazz to rock, then a deejay potentially might be the way to go,” Zac said. “But even the best deejays, they’re just playing pre-recorded music.”

Zac and Vanessa are hoping for a mix of goofiness and funkiness: Think Motown meets Adam Sandler in “The Wedding Singer.”

“We want a cheesy wedding band,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s a goofy thing, but then it’s like, whoa, this is serious, too. It’s obviously a huge moment for us, but at the same time, we want to have some fun.”

A band has the ability to feel the energy in the room and improvise on the spot, whether it’s bringing it down low, slow and romantic, hanging on to a manic jam for an extra few seconds, or taking it to the bridge just one more time.

There’s something about an off-note, or a drummer getting off the beat and the band coming back together, that some might say typifies what a married couple has to go through the rest of their lives. You make a minor flub, and you fix it and keep going.

Zac says he likes the energy and personality a band brings to an event. “It feels more in the moment, when they’re playing the music live,” Zac said. “I want there to be those kind of individual moments at our wedding.”

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